The Good Life
with a Southern Drawl

Top 25 Oyster Bars Plus The Best Oysters And How To Enjoy Them

By Amy Bailey — August 13, 2015

It is time to learn about oysters and enjoy these nutritiously delicious bivalves. Oysters may not lead the most glamorous lives clustered together feeding on algae, but they are packed with essential nutrients like protein, zinc, iron, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C. In fact oysters are one of the best sources for zinc which boosts your immune system, is essential for mental health, and increases fertility (hence where they get their reputation as an aphrodisiac). Whether you are a beginner in the oyster world or you are looking to learn more, here are a few tips on how to enjoy them along with our top 25 favorite oyster bars.

Peak Time To Enjoy

It is now argued that with the advancement in refrigeration and transportation methods that oysters can be enjoyed anytime of year, and while that may be true to an extent, oysters are still at their peak of deliciousness in the chilly months of the fall. For one, colder temperatures outside mean colder water and oysters are always better in colder water. Also, they breed during the summer so in order to grow into healthy oysters and keep a sustainable population it is better for them to be harvested in the fall, which most are.

For the Oyster Virgin

If you have never been into oysters may we recommend trying the small and extremely tasty Kumamoto. Also Murder Point Oysters out of Alabama raise absolutely delicious oysters that are buttery and beautiful. In fact the first time I had them I could not get over how tasty as well as how white and clean the shell was, so I went home and began to look them up, imagine how delightful to discover that they are raised in Alabama by a five generation fisherman family.

If You Like It Big

If you prefer a larger oyster, opt for Blue Points or Apalachicola.

optimistFor The Briny Lovers

If you prefer briny (aka salty), Raspberry Points have a high brininess with a clean and sweet finish. Cuttyhunks are a great choice as are Olde Salts grown near Chincoteague Bay, and the Charleston original Capers Blades introduced by Clammer Dave in 2007 is the best briny oyster we’ve ever enjoyed.

The Sweet Stuff

Do not like briny? Go for sweet like Hog Island Sweetwaters, Fanny Bay, or Totten Inlet. Or try the oyster everyone is talking about the Point aux Pins oysters farmed and harvested in Grand Bay, Alabama. With light brininess, a smaller size compared to Gulf oysters, and a taste that is delightful, Point aux Pins are among the highest quality oysters because they are raised using off-bottom oyster farming.

For The Wild Ones

Want a wild one? Most oysters are farm raised, however Apalachicolas are born and raised completely wild, other natural choices include Malpeques, Caraquets, Martha’s Vineyards, and Chesapeakes.

For A Little Strange

Want to try something unique order Murder Point, Sweet Jesus, Point aux Pins, Fat Bastards, Duxbury, Riptide, Olympias, Colville Bays, or Whale Rocks (you may have to travel to find these). Want to harvest your own? Plan a trip to Washington State to Drayton Harbor Community Oyster Farm.

Sip And See

Beausoleils are best with bubbly and we think Point aux Pins and champagne make a great pair too. Most people recommend briny oysters with nice cold beer. Briny oysters also pair well with dry rose wines like a Le Grand Noir Rose or Chateau Saint-Sulpice Sarah Bordeaux Clairet.

Our Top 25 Favorite Oyster Bars

  1. The Optimist Atlanta, Georgia – The Optimist would rival any oyster bar in the United States as the BEST oyster bar ever. The Optimist serves a revolving selection of more than 10 varieties of the most excellent oysters you will find. From Raspberry Points to Bama Beauties. An absolute must for any oyster lover. The Optimist also boasts a vibrant energy and beautifully displayed oyster case filled with the daily selections.
  2.  Mignonette Miami, Florida – High quality, unique selection of oysters on display on ice right when you walk in. mignonetteMignonette gives you a whole new reason to travel to Miami. This new favorite South Florida eatery will have you dreaming of your next bivalve jaunt. Plus the knowledgeable and incredibly kind staff make your dining experience truly one of the most enjoyable.
  3. Grand Central Oyster Bar – A hustling and bustling scene equipped with red checkered tablecloths and the widest selection of oysters you can imagine. An absolute MUST for any bivalve lover. The service is fantastic – they were attentive and accommodating to my 6 year old, even wanting their photo made with my mini oyster eater. Dive in and dine on all the oysters your curiosity allows. This is an oyster experience you will long remember and look forward to doing again and again.
  4. Taylor Shellfish Farms Oyster Bars Seattle, Washington – The Taylor family has been growing shellfish for over 100 years. From the moment the oyster seed leaves the hatchery, to the day a crop is harvested, it is nurtured and protected from predators. Taylor Oyster Bars create a direct relationship between Taylor Shellfish Farms and your table with multiple locations in Capitol Hill, Lower Queen Anne, and Pioneer Square.
  5. Ocean Birmingham, Alabama – It may be inland but it has one of the most extensive oyster selections in the Southeast. The menu changes daily and if you are lucky will include Kumamotos, but typically you find Beausoleils, Chincoteague Salts, and Wellfleets. Ocean has been voted Best Restaurant, Best Chef and the recipient of The Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for the past seven years.
  6. The Ordinary Charleston, South Carolina – Fancy is the perfect word to describe this eatery that surpasses ordinary and soars straight into the upper echelon of all dining experiences. The highest quality oysters, check. The most variety of ways to enjoy them, check. Get ready for a spiritual experience with food that should begin with the triple seafood tower.
  7. Boss Oyster Apalachicola, Florida – World famous for a reason and that reason is their private oyster harvesting boat called BOSS OYSTER that sits right outside on Apalachicola Bay has a one-of-a-kind refrigeration so that the oysters are chilled from bay to belly. Fresh as they come and prepared like you like them. You can add avocado, jalapeno pepper, fish roe, cheese and you can ask for your own customized oyster too.
  8. Hog Island San Francisco, California – Tomales Bay is where Hog Island grows, shares, and shucks their oysters to share with patrons. They host people at their farm and at their oyster bars in San Francisco and Napa. In 1983 they began growing just one oyster that they called Hog Island Sweetwater. Now they grow 4 of the 5 oysters found on the Northern Hemisphere along with Manila Clams and Mussels.
  9. Peche New Orleans, Louisiana – Peche is the seafood version from the same NOLA restauranteur as Cochon featuring Hama Hama oysters and Island Creek oysters. Peche has also been honored with 2 James Beard Awards including Best New Restaurant and Chef Ryan Prewitt Best Chef: South.
  10. Hank’s Charleston, South Carolina – Feel like you are local and enjoy this lively atmosphere of characters young and old. Hank’s has the allure of an old seaside eatery with a sophisticated menu that includes a seafood tower featuring locally harvested oysters like Capers Blades.
  11. Reef Houston, Texas – Chef Bryan Caswell is a leader in the oyster world and supporter of Gulf oysters. Reef has also been named #1 Seafood Restaurant in America by Bon Appetit Magazine while Chef Bryan Caswell has been a James Beard Award Nominee multiple times. Reef is an absolute must eat for anyone who loves seafood. Enjoy a selection of Gulf oysters on the half shell or try 3rd baked with Swiss Chard, Lime Pickle, and Asiago breadcrumbs or 3rd Fried with a Sriracha Remoulade.
  12. Fisher’s Orange Beach Orange Beach, Alabama – Ranked one of the 100 Best Restaurants in the South by Southern Living Magazine, Fisher’s at Orange Beach serves up mouth watering sustainable oysters many straight from the waters of the Alabama coast like Murder Point Oysters. Also try the Oysters Earle, named after the local legend Earle Long.
  13. Neptune Oyster Boston Massachusetts – An American institution and an oyster lover’s heaven, Neptunes’ fresh seafood is beautifully displayed. Pick out Komamotos and Kusshis of the highest quality. The raw bar is open until 11pm on the weekends.
  14. Hank’s Oyster Bar Washington DC – The month of October means it is time for Oysterfest at Hank’s Oyster Bar – a day of all you can eat raw oysters, fried oysters, BBQ oysters, and more. Since 2005 Hank’s has been a DC favorite serving up a variety of oysters on the half shell as well as sake oyster shooters from their ice bar.
  15. Stinky’s Fish Camp Santa Rosa Beach, Florida – Oysters all day, all ways is Stinky’s motto and boy do they mean it! Champagne Broiled, Jalapeño and Cheddar, Raw with Ceviche, The ChumLine Oyster Bar serves them up in the most delicious ways imaginable.
  16. Highlands Bar & Grill Birmingham, Alabama – Part of the fun is watching the bivalves gut shucked at this iconic restaurant. Pull up to the bar instead of opting for a table and sample their impeccable selection of oysters like Salt Aires, Chatams, Beausoleils, Chincoteagues, and more.
  17. McGarvey’s Oyster Bar and Saloon Annapolis, Maryland – Voted again and again as one of America’s Best Oyster Bars, McGarvey’s also serves up over 50 craft beers. So order your raw oysters and a flight to see which brews pair best with their bivalves.
  18. Woodberry Kitchen Baltimore, Maryland – Specializing in only local oysters from the Chesapeake. A seat at Woodberry means you are always supporting local farmers. Their local oysters include names like War Shores, Skinny Dippers, Choptank Sweets, Battle Creeks.
  19. The Walrus And The Carpenter Seattle, Washington – A poem graces the homepage of this restaurant: O Oysters, come and walk with us! A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk. Along a briny beach…The Walrus and The Carpenter only serves local oysters and their menu changes daily to ensure they are provising the highest quality to their customers. Selections include Penn Coves, Hama Hamas, Baywater Sweets, Pickering Passages. A true American oyster institution.
  20. Saltine Jackson, Mississippi – Just honored as one of America’s BEST new restaurants by Bon Appetit! Chef Jesse Houston has knocked it out of the ballpark with this new bivalve destination. Enjoy oysters anyway you wish along with a creative collection of entrees.
  21. The Original Oyster House Mobile, Alabama – In 1983 The Original Oyster House opened its doors in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Order them on the half shell, fire-grilled with butter and Romano cheese, Joe & Dave’s Favorites served with applewood bacon and Parmesan, or breaded and served with homemade remoulade sauce.
  22. The John Dory Oyster Bar New York, New York – The John Dory is just one of Chef April Bloomfield’s incredible New York City restaurants. A super cool space with an oyster happy hour everyday from 5-7pm – we fell in love!
  23. Amen Street Fish And Raw Bar Charleston, South Carolina – A longtime resident of the Charleston area, Chef Ramon Taimanglo brings his love and appreciation of fresh ingredients, sustainable seafood and farm-to-table experience to Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar. There is a House Oyster that changes daily. Specialty oysters include Gigimotos, Beavertails, Piper Points, Malagashes, and more. Fresh oysters are $5.95 for 1/2 dozen or $8.95 for dozen – now that is a steal.
  24. Acme Oyster House New Orleans, Louisiana – Acme opened its doors in 1910, Acme’s key to success is to not get too far from the source. In addition to the original French Quarter location, Acme Oyster Houses are open in Covington, Metairie, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in Sandestin on the Florida panhandle. Each location is a short, refrigerated drive away from where Acme’s oysters are harvested so they are always shucked and served at their freshest. In March 2014, Acme opened up their sixth location in Gulf Shores.
  25. Indian Pass Raw Bar Indian Pass, Florida – Grab a seat and a drink from the cooler and make yourself at home. This American icon is a must for any shellfish connoisseur. The oysters are as fresh as they come and the beer is served by you from a cooler.